CHIANG RAI -Â A terrible fire has swept through the Pitakiatwittaya School in the Wiang Pa Pao district of Chiang Rai, killing at least 17 in their dormitory, police said on Monday.
District police chief Colonel Prayad Singsin said the fire broke out late on Sunday as the girls, aged five to 12, slept at the Christian school in Wiang Pa Pao district of Chiang Rai.
Investigators are looking at the possibility of faulty lighting on the floor below.
“Most of the losses were because the children were asleep,” said district police chief Colonel Prayad Singsin.
Two of five injured children were in critical condition, he said.
Sant Sukhavachana, a senior regional forensics officer said forensic experts sifted through the debris and ashes inside the concrete shell of the building. Preliminary indications suggested a faulty fluorescent light on the ground floor may have been the cause.
A hot fragment fell on to a pile of clothes and started the fire, he said. The children likely died due to smoke inhalation. “There was a lot of smoke and the room where it happened was right below where the children were sleeping,” he said.
A total of 38 children of the 142 that attend the school were in the dormitory when the fire started, school head Pim Wasana told Reuters. The alarm was raised by a school cleaner.
“I am at a loss for words,” Pim Wasana said. “I don’t know what I should do, but the only thing on my mind now is to try to find a way to ease the parents’ suffering.”
Namae Patikiri,57, lost six grandchildren in the blaze, “Five of them had only moved here a year ago,” she said, crying. “The other one had only been here for two weeks.”
Photographs on the school’s Facebook page showed firefighters struggling to douse the flames as they tore through the wooden building.
Thai media showed a fire truck spraying water onto the blaze as the upper story of the school was consumed by the fire.
Rescue workers picked through the debris late Sunday and into Monday morning.